Looking back, looking forwards: celebrating 16 years of the Parkinson’s MasterClass

13 Jul 2018

This year, we at the Neurology Academy celebrate 16 years since we first launched our original programme: the Parkinson’s MasterClass. Our enthusiasm for neurology education has only grown with the years, and we want to share our own, and our past students’ passion, with you.

Looking back

The MasterClass began as a discussion among colleagues. Dr Peter Fletcher, who remains on the Faculty today, alongside Doug MacMahon, Sue Thomas and David Stewart, were concerned about the lack of knowledge about Parkinson’s. As the first consultant in Cornwall to have a Parkinson’s specialist nurse, Doug MacMahon could see the benefit that a specialist service made to his patients and he wanted to share this with colleagues around the country.

Intending to run just two programmes of training and mentoring ‘for clinicians, by clinicians’, the MasterClass has now supported over 1,500 healthcare professionals to develop Parkinson’s specialisms, and is routinely booked up over a year in advance. The Foundation level course has doubled its capacity, increasing to give much needed spaces to the junior registrars who now need to include Parkinson’s training in their rotation.

‘It feels like there’s a dearth of doctors specialising as geriatricians at the moment - we want to inspire the registrars we see, and encourage them in pursuing Parkinson’s care,’ says Sarah Gillett, our Managing Director. With the rise in an aging population, geriatrics is a growing demand, and Parkinson’s patients regularly fall in the ‘older people’ bracket; the British Geriatrics Society note that the condition is one of the most common neurological conditions to affect older people. Members of our faculty are often saying how rewarding they find caring for people with Parkinson’s, and many began teaching to encourage other young doctors to think about going into geriatrics.

Doug MacMahon at a MasterClass 2014

The Academy now

Since those early days, the Neurology Academy has expanded to support a much broader range of professionals across a wider array of topics - all with an ongoing drive to enable existing clinical specialists to share their knowledge and enthusiasm with their peers, encouraging confidence and improved practice across the UK.

We have three different Academies set up for Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis (MS) and dementia, as well as offering day courses on specialist areas like end of life care.

The MS MasterClass began in 2016 and has already supported almost 100 professionals to expand their knowledge and practice for the condition. The fifth MasterClass runs in June, with delegates receiving training and mentorship, following the blueprint set out back in 2002. 94% of delegates return to take the Advanced module, completing a field research project as part of the work.

Our Dementia MasterClasses follow a slightly different format. Started in 2016 and led by Prof Iracema Leroi, we used an educational forum to both upskill professionals and jointly develop a practical toolkit to help other allied health professionals in better understanding dementia and improving the care they provide. The interactive care pathway toolkit is freely available and can be downloaded from our website to use in daily practice.

Dr Peter Fletcher and Sarah Gillett, 2014

Looking forwards

In the past few years, we’ve added roadshows to our repertoire and upwards of 3,000 professionals have now been involved with us in one form of education or another. The regionally-run roadshows provide a one day intensive learning in a specific area of neurology practice, such as Parkinson’s non-motor symptoms or neurology palliative care.

These shorter courses are ideal for a whole range of health and social care practitioners from a physiotherapist working with an MS patient, to care home staff new to supporting someone with a neurological condition. We intend to offer an increasing range of topics, and are now making some of our events available to attend by WebEx, using the internet to expand the ways we can offer education.

With an increasing peer network offering support and encouragement to newer specialists, and a raft of resources available on our website from practical tools to interviews and articles, we are sharing the original vision of education ‘for clinicians, by clinicians’ as widely as possible.

Star Showcase

To celebrate the past 16 years, we want to inspire you through some of our Stars - people who have taken our MasterClasses and poured passion and enthusiasm into their work. Many of them now teach on our courses, sharing their knowledge and experience, and mentoring the next generation of Parkinson’s specialists.

From a geriatrician who has built up a cross-departmental, multi-disciplinary Parkinson’s service from scratch, to a neurologist who has been awarded honorary psychiatrist status to more holistically treat his patients with psychosis symptoms, this range of MasterClass alumni are inspiring in their determination to deliver the best possible care to their patients.

This 16th birthday, we would like to share some of their stories with you. Each of our Stars have different strengths, focuses and experiences and every week we’ll be focusing on someone new. We hope you’ll join us in celebrating by reading their stories, and finding your own inspiration.

'The things you can't get from the books'

Parkinson's Academy, our original and longest running Academy, houses 19 years of inspirational projects, resources, and evidence for improving outcomes for people with Parkinson's. Led by co-founder and educational director Dr Peter Fletcher, the Academy has a truly collegiate feel and prides itself on delivering 'the things you can't get from books' - a practical learning model which inspires all Neurology Academy courses.